Amy Cooper’s Chef Demonstration
Olney Farmer’s Market
Sunday, October 18, 2009

Choosing a Pumpkin

There are many different types of pumpkins including the most popular Jack O Lanterns, miniatures, sugar pie, and giant. Jack O Lanterns are great for carving but not so much for baking purposes. They are very watery and bland. Miniatures have barely any meat and aren’t worth the effort. These are used mainly for decoration. Giant pumpkins are not as sweet and should mainly be used in place of squash or in soups. That leaves us the incredible Sugar Pie Pumpkin. This Pumpkin is sweet and full of pumpkin flavor. They should be approximately 4 pounds, 7 inches across and have about 2 inches of stem with no visible bruising. Knock on the pumpkin and if ripe, it should sound slightly hollow. If it isn’t pumpkin season, you can substitute Libby’s pure pumpkin puree (careful not to confuse the can with pumpkin pie filling) or sweet potatoes or squash varieties.


Pumpkin Puree

1 sugar pie pumpkin

Cut Pumpkin in half. Scoop out seeds and fibrous strands with ice cream scooper or spoon. Save seeds for later. Cut pumpkin into 2-3 inch chunks. Remove skin carefully with a knife. Boil in salted water for 30 minutes. Pumpkin should be easily poked through with a fork when done. Drain and puree to desired consistency. Boiling is my preferred method for pureeing pumpkin. There are many alternative cooking methods including roasting, steaming, and microwaving. To roast, cut the pumpkin in half and remove seeds and fibrous strands. Place pulp side down in roasting pan with 1 cup of water and bake at 350 degrees for 60-90 minutes depending on size. Let cool, remove pulp and puree. To steam, cut the pumpkin into 2-3 inch chunks and remove skin. Steam the pumpkin for 15 minutes and puree. To microwave, cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds and fibrous strands. Place in a microwave safe dish with 1 cup of water for 15 minutes. If not soft enough, continue microwaving for 2 minute intervals.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Alternatives

Ground Allspice
Ground Cinnamon
Ground Nutmeg and Ground Cloves
Ground Ginger

If you do not have pumpkin pie spice, you can easily mix your own by combining 2 parts cinnamon, 1 part allspice or mix of nutmeg and cloves, and 1 part ginger. Allspice by itself is also a great alternative to pumpkin pie spice if you don’t like the ginger flavor.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Fresh pumpkin Seeds with Shell

Wash and dry pumpkin seeds. Lightly salt and spread evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir every 3-5 minutes to ensure even toasting and prevent burning. You can also spice them up by adding your favorite seasoning s instead of salt like pumpkin pie spice, allspice, Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper, old bay, or barbeque seasoning.

Water Soak for Apples to Prevent Browning


Juice Mix 5 parts water with one part lemon juice. Wash, core, and slice apples to desired size. Soak overnight if they will be staying out for a long time or just until use in lemon water mixture. Use may also use any citrus flavored soda like 7UP or Sprite or lemon/lime club soda in place of lemon water.

Roasted Pecans

Unsalted Pecan halves
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter cut into small chunks

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spread Pecans evenly on ungreased cookie sheet or glass pie plate. Place on the center rack, stirring occasionally for approximately 1 hour. Remove from the oven and stir in unsalted butter and until coated evenly. Bake for 10 additional minutes. Salt the pecans to taste while warm.

Light Pumpkin Dip

1 package 1/3 less fat cream cheese at room temperature
½ cup Splenda brown sugar blend
¾ cup fresh pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp. sugar free maple syrup
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
Apple Slices and Reduced Fat Graham Crackers for Serving

Mix the cream cheese, brown sugar, and pumpkin puree at medium speed with electric mixer until blended. Add syrup and spice and beat at high speed until creamy, smooth, and fluffy. This dip is best served chilled.

Yummy Pumpkin Fudge

3 cups sugar
1 ½ sticks of margarine at room temperature
2/3 cup of evaporated milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 package of butterscotch morsels (vanilla chips also work well)
1 jar of Marshmallow fluff removed from jar
2 cups of toasted pecans coarsely chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup marshmallows

In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, butter, milk, pumpkin and spice. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens and reduces (about 10-12 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in butterscotch morsels until melted. Stir in marshmallow fluff, 1 cup of nuts, and vanilla. Pour into a greased cookie sheet. Top with remaining pecans and marshmallows. Let cool at room temperature for at least one hour until set. Continue cooling in refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Slice and serve.

Fun Pumpkin Facts

  • Pumpkin a variety of squash in the CurCurbita family along with squash, cucumbers, and watermelon.
  • Pumpkins are very rich in Vitamin A and Potassium and high in Fiber.
  • Pumpkins can grow from 1 pound to 1,000 pounds.
  • Ninety percent of pumpkins are grown in Illinois and Eighty percent of pumpkin supplies are available in the month of October.
  • Pumpkins can be Orange, Red, Yellow, Tan, White, Green, and Blue.
  • Pumpkins originated over 7,000 years ago in Central America.
  • Pumpkins were a staple in Native American diets.
  • Pumpkins were once thought to have cured freckles and snake bites.
  • The first pumpkin pies were made by early settlers hollowing out a pumpkin and filling it with milk, honey, and spices then baking and scooping out of the shell.
  • Pumpkin was introduced to the first Thanksgiving in 1620 with the Pilgrims and Native Americans.
  • Pumpkin carving was adapted and evolved from the Celtics All Hallow’s Eve in Ireland when they carved Turnips and Rutabagas. There was such an abundance of pumpkins in America, that they substituted them in the carving rituals.